Church Opens Doors To 225 Homeless People— Gives Them Safe, Warm Place To Sleep Every Night

Since 2004, The Gubbio Project has worked with local churches to provide a safe place for homeless people to sleep. Co-founded in 2004 by Shelly Roder and Father Louis Vitale in San Francisco, The Gubbio Project derives its name from an Italian legend where the townspeople befriend a scary wolf only to learn the animal isn’t frightening at all.

The legend acts as a thought-provoking metaphor in light of the organization’s goals.

Most shelters close during the day and don’t allow people to say unless they have a medical condition that requires it.

For others, even the shelters do not provide a safe moment of respite. Many homeless individuals avoid sleeping during the night for fear of being a-ttacked. “Most of the people you see here are walking all night, trying to stay out of sight of the cop” a local man sadly revealed.

In an effort to combat this issue, The Gubbio Project has partnered with San Francisco’s St. Boniface church to take part in an inspiring initiative.

“An average of 225 unhoused neighbors seek safety and rest on the pews in the sanctuary of St. Boniface church each weekday starting at 6 AM,” the website reads.

“No questions are asked when our guests walk into the churches; in an effort to remove all barriers to entry, there are no sign-in sheets or intake forms.”

According to The Gubbio Project website, a lack of sleep is one of the most c-ritical health issues faced by today’s homeless population.

For the program, the church is split into three sections.

The homeless residents use the back 2/3 of the church while the front section is used for daily mass at 12:15 PM— and this layout is very intentional. Allowing the homeless to remain during daily mass “sends a powerful message to our unhoused neighbors,” the website reveals.

“They are in essence part of the community, not to be kicked out when those with homes come in to worship.”

“It also sends a message to those attending mass— the community includes the tired, the poor, those with mental health issues, and those who are wet, cold and dirty.”

When media outlets originally reported on The Gubbio Project, the initiative garnered widespread acclaim.

Now, according to recent reports, other churches are following its lead.

The Beth Emmanuel Church in London, Ontario, Canada, recently opened its doors to the homeless during the frigid, winter months.

Volunteers transformed a room of the church into a ‘warming center’ where those in need could come to get support and sleep. Church pastor Dan Morand told CBC News that 40 people showed up to sleep on the very first night. He added:

“That may not seem a lot to some people but that’s a lot of people outside. That’s not acceptable.”

In the state of New Jersey, a program called Family Promise also partners with local congregations to temporarily house homeless families.

According to The Bellingham Herald, up to five homeless families are helped at a time, being rotated among the participating churches each week where they are provided with food and shelter.

In another Canadian example, the St. Andrew’s church in Niagara Falls is currently participating in a two-year, pilot project funded by the regional government. Created by Angela Peebles, the project hopes to “establish a new drop-in space where they [homeless citizens] can hang out, get warm or cool down in the summer, and access services they may need,” wrote the St. Catharines Standard. What originally started as Peebles’ desire to feed the homeless eventually evolved into so much more.

States with the highest housing costs (such as New York, Hawaii, Oregon, and California) consequently seem to have the highest rates of homelessness.

With a recent report from USA TODAY claiming even the least expensive homes in the United States have risen in price, it may be beneficial for communities and churches to start investing in projects like these.

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